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Big League Dreams: Eric Aguilera

A Look at Chinooks in the Minor Leagues

Eric Aguilera  – Los Angeles Angels / Burlington Bees (A)

Aguilera-HeadshotEric Aguilera just keeps on hitting and this summer Aguilera hopes to hit his way up the minor league chain. Remembered by Chinooks GM Dean Rennicke as “one of the best pure hitters to play for the organization,” Aguilera posted the second highest season batting average of .369 during Lakeshore’s inaugural season in 2012. For his efforts, the Illinois State Redbird was selected as the first winner of the team’s Kapco Steel Slugger Award and when he returned to his college team, Aguilera kept on hitting as he posted a .346 batting average and was named first team all-conference in the Missouri Valley Conference for the second season in a row.

Despite his reputation as a fierce hitter, Aguilera had to wait until the 34th round of the 2013 MLB Draft to learn that the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim felt he was worth a pick and immediately was sent to play rookie ball for their affiliate in the Pioneer League, the Orem Owlz. As Aguilera made the adjustment from the cornfields of Illinois to the mountains of Utah, he also was asked to make a position change from the outfield to first base. The move was so sudden; he had to borrow a first base mitt to open the season. The transition went well and Aguilera’s stock in the organization rose quickly, leading Orem’s manager Bill Richardson to remark, “Eric has those four years of college and that good experience behind him so he could be in a position to move up quickly. He just needs to keep doing what he’s been doing.” The left-handed hitter continued to impress at the plate where he hit .306 with ten homeruns and knocked in 53 runs for the Owlz.

In 2014, Aguilera showed continued improvement at the Class A level, playing the majority of the season for the Burlington Bees in the Midwest League and eleven games of Advanced-A ball with the Inland Empire 66ers of the California League. In 135 total games, Aguilera hit .291 with 14 homeruns and 73 RBIs, including this go ahead home run in the 15th inning in a July game against West Michigan:Aguilera’s Home Run

And with his continued improvement in the field, Aguilera was selected as a mid-season All-Star in the Midwest League after being named twice as the league’s Player of the Week. For the season, Eric notched 31 multi-hit games.

As the Angels begin spring training, Aguilera’s value to the organization is at an all-time high as close observers with the franchise suggest that Aguilera has more than validated the Angels’ selection and now has a serious opportunity to rocket up the club’s prospect watch list; but Aguilera remains level in his approach saying, “After a couple years in professional baseball I try not to look too far ahead or make assumptions. My goal is to just help make as much of a contribution as I can for whatever affiliate that may be, and continue to put up consistent seasons from a personal standpoint. Those kinds of decisions aren’t always in your power, and as long as you take care of the things that you can control good things will happen, and you’ll be where you want to be at the end of the day.” One way to do that, has been to remain consistent in his offseason approach as he returned to his college roots in Normal where he shared an apartment with former Chinooks MVP catcher, Mike Hollenbeck. The two major league hopefuls pushed each other through offseason workouts.

Aguilera-at-1BAguilera at 1st Base for the Burlington Bees

Aguilera contends that his experience at Lakeshore played an important role in his development as he recalled “There wasn’t a better organization and a better group of guys to play with. They are truly first class from the top to bottom and treat their players the right way. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.” And that includes one of the funnier moments of the first season. “We had a little game stoppage at one of our road games due to a little intoxicated fan streaking across the entire outfield. He made one hell of an attempt to get away, but in the end was tackled and escorted out of the park using the mound tarp as a cover up.” Once again, the Northwoods League provides unparalleled experience for players making the jump to the pros!

Keep a close eye on Aguilera.  This could be the season his bat takes him one step closer to the major leagues.